It's just one week until I leave the place that I started to call home, until I go home-home. I've now lived in the United States for just under a year, first Florida, then Oklahoma, now it's time to return to England.
I chose to study in Oklahoma because I wanted the full American experience, I figured the best way to do that was to go to the middle of no where, away from tourists, away from the places you would usually travel to in the United States. We can choose from 43 universities and as shallow as it my intuitive response as to how to pick from all these places was to google the campus and choose the most aesthetic. OU's campus looked so beautiful so I kept digging and found there was an African American studies department (my area of academic interest) and then I saw the football stadium.
I thought there was no way a stadium that big could be on a campus. Then I saw the cheerleaders. Then I saw the size of the crowd. I followed Baker Mayfield on Instagram because he was clearly some sort of a big deal and watched him sign onto Cleveland in the NFL and I remember thinking oh my, OU is a big deal.
I wanted to see football and frat parties and learn about American culture right at the forefront of it but I never expected my year abroad would be as fulfilling as it was.
I went to the football games (well, OU vs Texas in Dallas and Bedlam) I went to the frat parties, I even dated a frat boy (who is also the closest thing I've got to a real life cowboy, he even has the boots to prove it and he took me line dancing on our second date).
It wasn't just these experiences that taught me so much just the academia alone was interesting enough. I mean, for an American studies student to call someone on death row in Oklahoma, discuss the death penalty in the US, learn about mass incarceration in the state that incarcerates the most people was mind blowing. Even the classes everyone else finds boring I was in awe of, I was like a sponge, I was so fascinated.
I travelled, I saw Dallas, Austin, spent my 21st birthday in DC, saw New York at Christmas, camped in Arkansas, I'm going to New Orleans and Atlanta to end my trip, I even spent spring break in Cancun – which is as amazing as the movies portray it as, by the way.
I didn't even just get to interact with Americans I learned about so many other cultures, I lived with a Japanese girl, a German, Columbian, Dutch and French. I have friends from Bolivia, Spain, New Zealand, all around the world.
And, as I write this, with one week left, I'm thinking about returning to England, to work as a receptionist, living the nine till five life and thinking;
how on earth am I supposed to go from all of this to living my extraordinarily ordinary life.
For anyone that's travelled, returning home is extremely bittersweet, yes I miss England, the culture, the people, my friends, even the dreary grey sky and continuous drizzle that we always complain about- that if of course until the sun makes it's appearance and it gets far too hot for our liking and the excitement of sitting in a beer garden wears off. I miss my friends, I haven't seen my best friend in a year and man do I miss my dog and my family.
But the thing is, I have caught what they call the travel bug.
You see, study abroad creates this weird alternate life, if you will. Obviously, it is reality but it isn't your reality. It is temporary. And in this temporariness you don't have to think too much about school work because it doesn't count, you can spend a lot of money because it 'doesn't count', you can go out and travel because you're simply experiencing things. You have friends that wouldn't be in your regular life and there's certainly a lack of responsibility that you don't have in your real life.
That is, until it's time to book your return flight home and answer the email from your home university to send them your dissertation thesis.
Studying abroad not only gives you incredible memories but incredible friends, you have to contemplate the idea of never seeing them again, my roommates and I are from four different countries, it's weird to think we won't see each other every day never mind potentially never being in the same room again.
I probably won't return to Oklahoma either, it's difficult to get to and expensive to get here, especially for a holiday. It's hard to think that this weekend is my last weekend drinking pineapple shots in Logies, the last weekend getting coffee from Second Wind café, the last time I walk the South Oval.
I think, for me, leaving is extremely sad, not just because of saying goodbye to friends, Oklahoma, OU but because for me; this means saying goodbye to this lifestyle I've somehow managed to live for a year.
I travelled for a year, pretty much, I inter-railed, worked in Disney World and then studied abroad whilst travelling around America whenever I could. Now I return to a full time receptionist job, writing a thesis and applying for grad schemes.
Whenever I've said goodbye before, there's immediately been a new adventure, the whole when one door shuts another opens scenario.
It's the ultimate comedown, it's life giving you lemons but instead of making lemonade you accidentally squeeze the acidic juice into your eye.
Not that I'm all doom and gloom I am excited to be back in the UK, back in my old playground that is the University of East Anglia and I'm excited to start applying for careers, but for now, this is my last hurrah and what a hurrah it's been.